Covid-19 pandemic takes a toll on weddings

23% fall in solemnisations in Jan-July compared with last year, but more plan to wed in last 3 months of this year

(From left) Ms Vanitha Jayakumar, 31, and Mr Devan Lakshamanan, 34, solemnised their union on Sept 6, after postponing their original April 10 wedding dinner due to circuit breaker measures. Ms Evelyn Fong, 25, and Mr Josiah Koh, 27, tied the knot on Aug 22, 2020. PHOTOS: ALANGKAAR, AMERRYMOMENT

After planning their wedding for a year, Mr Devan Lakshamanan, 34, and Ms Vanitha Jayakumar, 31, were informed at the last minute by the Registry of Marriages (ROM) that their solemnisation on April 10 had to be postponed.

The authorities had imposed circuit breaker measures to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the couple's plans, like those of thousands of others in Singapore, were dashed.

The couple, who had been dating for five years, cancelled the wedding dinner on April 10 they had planned for 250 guests at the Civil Service Club.

Mr Lakshamanan, a business development executive, said: "We were distraught and lost as we had invested so much emotional energy into it."

There was nothing to do but wait.

In July, when the Government announced that from Aug 4, a wedding party can have up to 50 people, Mr Lakshamanan and Ms Jayakumar jumped for joy and brought their wedding finery out of storage.

On Sept 6 - an auspicious date in the Hindu astrological calendar - the couple solemnised their union and performed Hindu prayers and wedding rituals at Orchid Country Club. All in, there were 48 guests at the event.

Ms Jayakumar, a senior landscape designer, said they were relieved to finally be able to take their marriage vows.

The happy occasion, however, was tinged with sadness - she was upset that the couple could not invite many members of their extended family and close friends to share their joy.

So, they are planning to hold another wedding ceremony in January next year at a Hindu temple and hope that, by then, they can invite more guests.

Like the Lakshamanans, thousands of couples in Singapore have had their wedding plans disrupted by the pandemic.

The number of couples who solemnised their marriages from January to July last year was 13,626.

  • 2,723 Number of solemnisations that were scheduled during the circuit breaker period lasting from April 7 to June 1. Most of them had to be rescheduled.

    405 Number of solemnisations that have been conducted via video link since June 2, despite couples being allowed to solemnise their marriages in person.

    800 Number of marriage notices that had been filed for solemnisations on Oct 10, as at Sept 7. In comparison, there were 57 solemnisations on Oct 10 last year.

That number fell 23 per cent to 10,542 during the same period this year.

An ROM spokesman, in response to queries from The Straits Times, said more couples are expected to wed in the last quarter of the year.

On Sept 2 in Parliament, Minister of State for Social and Family Development and for Education Sun Xueling said there was a fall in the number of nuptials this year.

"This will have a negative impact on the number of newborns in Singapore," she said.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said Singaporeans generally do not have children out of wedlock.

If there are fewer couples getting married, it follows that there are likely to be fewer babies being born.

That is a worrying development, given Singapore's baby drought and rapidly ageing population, added Dr Tan.

Wedding solemnisers and planners said many couples have decided to postpone their weddings due to the pandemic, leading to a sharp fall in solemnisations.

For example, most of the 2,723 solemnisations scheduled during the circuit breaker period lasting from April 7 to June 1 had to be postponed.

The ROM spokesman said this was because couples were not allowed to solemnise their marriages in person, except if they were successful on appeal.

From May 20, solemnisations conducted by video link were allowed.

From Aug 4, up to 50 people are allowed to attend wedding ceremonies, including the wedding couple but excluding the solemniser and staff of the vendors involved in the event.

This was up from a maximum of 10 people during phase one of Singapore's reopening on June 2, and a cap of 20 people in phase two, which started on June 19.

Solemniser Joanna Portilla said some couples opted to postpone their wedding. With the 50-person cap in place now, she said: "They have planned for their ideal wedding and they are disappointed as they cannot invite all the people they want."

Wedding planner Herlina Makmur from Chere Weddings and Events said some couples have also postponed their weddings because the borders of many countries are closed and important family members or friends are not able to travel to Singapore to celebrate their big day.

While most couples choose to solemnise their marriages in person, 7 per cent of all solemnisations, or 405, have been conducted via video link since June 2, when couples could solemnise marriages in person again.

The ROM spokesman said: "There is still demand for video-link solemnisations, mainly from couples who wish to include more family and friends, including those from overseas, during the solemnisation. And they would like to ensure safety by minimising physical gatherings."

Solemniser Chia Swee Tin said the improving Covid-19 situation in Singapore could be a key reason for more couples planning to tie the knot in the last three months of the year.

In particular, Oct 10 is turning out to be a very popular date - 800 marriage notices had been filed for solemnisations for that day, as at Sept 7.

In comparison, there were 57 solemnisations on Oct 10 last year.

Ms Zhang Wenxin from the Wedding Stylist said Oct 10 signifies perfection in Chinese, alluding to the Mandarin idiom shi quan shi mei, or perfect in every way.

Besides, the date falls on a Saturday this year, and couples generally like double numbers - such as Aug 8 and Oct 10 - because they are easy to remember, among other reasons.

Mr Josiah Koh, 27, and Ms Evelyn Fong, 25, tied the knot on Aug 22.

The couple, both occupational therapists, had booked their banquet for 250 guests at the Regent Hotel about a year before the big day.

Although the pandemic disrupted their plans, they decided to go ahead with their solemnisation and banquet, and celebrated the event with 48 of their family members and closest friends. They also live-streamed their solemnisation for guests who could not attend.

Said Ms Fong: "This is my dream wedding - a smaller and less pompous event."

An added bonus, Mr Koh said, was that they saved between $30,000 and $40,000 after having to trim their guest list by 200.

The money saved will go a long way towards helping to set up their new home, he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2020, with the headline Covid-19 pandemic takes a toll on weddings. Subscribe